Is Inerrancy Blasphemous?

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Nota bene: This essay was never published on the old Strange Herring site. It was finished sometime in mid-2015 and left as a draft. The reasons for that will become apparent shortly. I am publishing it on July 28, 2016, because, well, in revisiting my digital oevre, I thought it a shame to have wasted so much time for nothing. And don’t forget to catch the updates at the very bottom. (You’ll have to dig to China.)

***

So the St. Louis-Post Dispatch has written up a tendentious piece on the Matthew Becker controversy in the LCMS. There’s no guessing which side the paper is on. There’s no guessing who the bad guys are and who the good guy is.

With that said, I have a lot to say on this, and not necessarily what you’d think. The only reason I feel that I have a right to stick my nose in is that the LCMS was the church body I was baptized and confirmed into, the church body whose parochial schools I attended for 12 years, the church body I left at roughly the age of 16 and never returned to, even to this day (despite attending many, many Divine Services in LCMS churches over the past nine years).

I started writing this post back in March 2015, even though I didn’t know it. That’s about the time Randy Boyagoda’s biography of Richard John Neuhaus hit bookstores. Writing about that lead me to RJN’s time in the LCMS and his connection to such people as Arthur Piepkorn and Herman Otten, which lead me to recent books about the Seminex walkout, which lead me to the topic of inerrancy and what it means in the confessional Lutheran world today.

I wrote and rewrote parts of it over a six-week period. It had reached, oh, about 10,000 words at that point.

And so I decided not to publish it. Continue reading “Is Inerrancy Blasphemous?”

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Martin Luther on Trial

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Any actors among my readers? If so, any of you ever itched to play Satan, Hitler, or Johann Tetzel? How about the greater Reformer Martin Luther? Or his wife, perhaps? A call went out a couple of weeks ago: auditions for a new play starring Max McLean called The Trial of Martin Luther. It’s being staged by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.

My friend John W. Kennedy has an interview with McClean (whose voice you will hear when you play Bible Gateway’s audio scripture of the day).

MAX McCLEAN: Fellowship for Performing Art’s mission is to produce theatre from a Christian worldview that engages a diverse audience.  We do that by carefully selecting material that, we think, has the ability to reach across the cultural spectrum. Then we execute it to the highest levels that our budgets can afford. Finally we ask people to help us do it.  That’s why we are called Fellowship for Performing Arts. It’s a fellowship of people who believe that art and theatre from a Christian worldview can engage the moral imagination.

As to FPA’s beginning, I was already a theatre artist before I converted to Christianity.  My imagination was captured.  I wanted to know more of it and see if I could integrate my faith into my work.  In order to do that at the level of excellence I wanted, I had to raise funds.  So we incorporated as a non-profit theater company. …

JWK: In February, you’re presenting an original production called Martin Luther on Trial, which you wrote with Chris Cragin-Day. Can you tell me something about that and the point of view it takes on Martin Luther?

MM: Martin Luther on Trial examines Luther’s legacy in the light of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Lucifer is the prosecuting attorney, Luther’s wife Kate acts for the defense, St. Peter is on the bench. The called witnesses are Hitler, Freud, Hans Luther, Rabbi Yosel and Martin Luther King, Jr. We have Pope Francis making an appearance in our play.  It’s a risky endeavor but we have a development process of readings, labs, workshops to make sure it is ready.This will be a development production.  It will not be open for review.  We plan to bring it back in the fall.

My reason for commissioning this play is to look at the inherent scandal of a divided Christianity. All Christians should be humble and charitable about the events that led to the Protestant Reformation or Revolt (depending on your point of view). If we can’t humble ourselves who can? Theatre is a good place for an audience of Protestants, Catholics and those of other beliefs to explore and dialogue about this controversial subject.

McLean was a member of Redeemer Presbyterian when I was a member there, and often would deliver the Scripture readings in his mellifluous baritone. My wife and I saw The Screwtape Letters with McLean Off-Broadway (tickets were a birthday gift from JWK, as it so happens); he’s an enormously talented and spirited actor.

By the by, how many of you know that Luther actually wrote Tetzel post-1517, after the indulgence peddler had been thrown under the bus by the public and ecclesiastical higher-ups? Want to know what Brother Martin said to the man who became the poster-child for works-righteousness?

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In short, “Grace to you.”

 

Luther to Enter Rome, Again

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Oh, sure, now

Next month a hilltop square in Rome is due to be named Piazza Martin Lutero, in memory of Luther’s achievements. The site chosen is the Oppian Hill, a park area that overlooks the Colosseum.

The move has been six years in a making, following a request made by the Seventh-day Adventists, a Protestant denomination, Italian daily La Repubblica said. The original plan was to inaugurate the square in time for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s historic trip to Rome in 2010. City officials were not able to discuss the process behind naming the square or the reason for the holdup.

Despite Luther being thrown out of the Catholic Church during his lifetime, the Vatican reacted positively to news of the square’s upcoming inauguration. “It’s a decision taken by Rome city hall which is favorable to Catholics in that it’s in line with the path of dialogue started with the ecumenical council,” said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Vatican press office, referring to a gathering of churchmen to rule on faith matters.

The move contrasts sharply from views held by Luther around the time of his visit to Rome, when it was said he repeated the saying“If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”

I’m sure he was not speaking literally, as in a historical-grammatical sense, but more in the “Where is my damn espresso?” sense…

If you know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, other than that they forbid the drinking of coffee, which is a sure sign of cultic practice, and not in a good way, like in the Brotherhood of the Sacred Bean, Caffeinated, of which I am treasurer, they have a special affection for Luther, even though he would have denounced their theology in no uncertain terms, or, rather, in certain terms, none of which are repeatable on a family blog. (The Seventh-dayers remain the only denomination that formally teaches soul-sleep, or psychopannychism, which does not refer to someone who’s ga-ga for sliced bread. It is an idea Luther toyed with early, as did Tyndale, but I believe jettisoned eventually.)

Now here’s an idea: why not lift the excommunication while you’re at it? If Pope Francis really wants to make a splash on the ecumenical scene, how about issuing a retraction on October 31, 1517 (assuming his enemies haven’t spiked his amaretto by then). I mean, can you really trust anything signed by Leo X? Sure, he loved music and was a “cultured hedonist” and all that, but he was also, according to David Hume, probably too intelligent to believe Catholic doctrine. So who was he to judge?

I say call another council, this time invite confessional Protestant theologians, and fight it out again. May the better theology win.

Until then, and in a spirit of irenic ecumenicity, I give you an essay by Fr. George Rutler, on the history of pews. Fr. Rutler used to write a monthly column called “Coincidentally” in which he packed an extraordinary amount of history into relatively few words by finding the strange, consequential, and amusing coincidences that make history fun. In his last column under that title, he left us with this:

In a financial coincidence, the $25 million paid by the United States to Colombia in 1921 as compensation for the loss of Colombia’s onetime colony, Panama (the United States had been involved in Panama’s rebellion), was identical to the price the United States had paid to Denmark for its portion of the Virgin Islands in 1917. The rapacious exactions of the Colombian generals with respect to Panama provoked President Theodore Roosevelt to use a pejorative term for people of Spanish extraction. The preliminary negotiations for the Virgin Islands were begun in 1867, the centenary year of the birth of Roosevelt’s great-granduncle, Nicholas J. Roosevelt, the inventor of a vertical paddle wheel. He applied for a patent for his wheel in 1813, the birth year of Søren Kierkegaard, who wrote his Fear and Trembling for Régine Olson, the daughter of a Danish governor of the Virgin Islands.

He who is not conscious of history, if not dead, might as well be. When asked in 1892, at the age of four, how he occupied himself during fits of insomnia, little Ronald Knox (later to become one of England’s greatest Catholic converts) replied: “I lie awake and think about the past.” The same story was told of the boy George Augustus, who became King George II of England in 1727. That strange coincidence, spanning two centuries, is probably fascinating only to this writer among all the billions of people now living—which is itself a coincidence.

For the record, I attended many a service at Our Saviour on Park Avenue when Fr. Rutler was senior pastor there and celebrated, or so it seemed to me, Mass every single day. He revitalized that congregation mightily, and the liturgy was a wonder to behold: a joyful mix of Latin and English, with hymns, incense, reverence, and awe to stop the pie hole of a Richard Dawkins. I was actually drawn to convert, and was in RCIA not once but twice. Beauty will do that to you.

Of course, bishops being what they are, Fr. Rutler was given the boot from Our Saviour and transferred to St. Michael’s on West 34th Street. One might say such “trades” come with the territory, “term limits” and all that, were it not for the fact that Our Saviour is in the process of being denuded and St. Michael’s is on the chopping block. Every time I think Rome may hold the key to stability, I think of this (and other things, of course) and slap myself.

Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church?

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So now that the call for pulling churches’ tax exemptions is gathering Internet speed, I wonder if future commissars will make a distinction between “bad” churches and “good” churches. The former would have their charitable status eradicated, while the latter would continue to enjoy the tax benefits of getting on History’s good side, and no negative stigma would be attached to flouting one’s membership in same.

A “bad” church, of course, would be one that remained impenitent and continued to believe, teach, and confess the historic Christian faith and uphold the moral code embedded in that faith (regardless of, and even because of, how many fail flawlessly to obey it).

Which is to say, Southern Baptist, confessional Lutheran and Reformed/Presbyterian, “continuing” and confessional Anglican, Assembly of God, and Eastern Orthodox ministers, pastors, and priests may very well have to have “the talk” with their members.

That talk will probably go something like this:

As we know from history, the early Christians were sent out into a world that demonstrated great hostility to their message. They had neither political nor social status or props to keep them afloat nor financial incentives to encourage generosity. They did have, however, the Word and the Sacraments and the Great Commission. And of course, each other.

These inducements, prompting great courage, hope, and perseverance in the face of all manner of persecution and marginalization, were enough. Within one century, a small band of outlaw Jews and the believers in their care had spread the Good News and established churches throughout the Near East, as far south as Africa, as far east as southern India, and into various parts of Europe.

Those who gave — of their time, money, goods — gave gratuitously, and could count on no immediate reward, certainly not from Rome’s tax assessors.

Are you made of the same stuff? Or should I say, are you filled with the same Spirit? Will you continue to give, to support this ministry, to support this minister, regardless of whether you can write it off at the end of the year? Are you willing to dig deeper to make up for the losses owing to the changes in the tax codes?

Or will you walk away, the doors of this church closed shut forever behind you?

Why are you here? For the music? You don’t have to come here for that. That’s what iTunes is for. To see familiar faces, catch up on the latest news? Throw a party. Take your friends to lunch.

Or is it for the Word and for the Sacraments? That you cannot find anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be this building — in fact, we may have to move. It doesn’t have to be with air conditioning that works all summer, or even at all. It may not have a dedicated fellowship hall or special space for children and teens. But it has to be somewhere, with someone standing in the pulpit and at the altar. It doesn’t have to be me. You may have to find a single minister, at least for the time being, or one who has a second source of income. In fact, every minister, every priest, may, like the Apostle Paul, have to go back to tent-making now and again to make ends meet.

But you will need someone, someone who has received a call to minister to you what only a called and ordained minister of the Word can.

In the coming weeks we will throw open our books to all members so you can see exactly what it takes to keep the lights on here, and what losing our tax-exempt status will mean for our budget.

But please know this: I will not harangue you every Sunday about how you’re not giving enough or doing enough. There will be no guilt trips or strange looks at those who don’t give at all, who have never given at all. You will either rise to this occasion or you will not. Perhaps you cannot.

God has not been displaced by this court, this culture, this country. He is still on his throne and Lord of that History that is so often spoken of as it if were as autonomous as the Western Self, a contradiction that very few of the elite and enlightened seem to grasp.

We all know that nothing can ultimately prevail against the Church, the Body of Christ. Not hell, not hate, not even our own moral failings. Christ died once and cannot die again. We died once, in the waters of baptism, and rose with him, our new lives kept safe with him, no matter what the short term brings.

Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

Or something to that effect. You can write your own version on your lunch hour tomorrow.

Roman Catholics will be in an interesting position. I wonder if Catholic Dems will force the IRS to make distinctions between “Francis” Catholics (good) and “Benedict” Catholics (bad). Yes, yes, you and I know there is no real difference when it comes to affirming all that. But we’re dealing with crazy people here, for whom theology, reason, tradition, legal and social precedent, First Amendment rights, separation of powers, etc., etc., are so many humorous asides in the keynote speech at the Annual Transhumanist and Euthanasia Dinner Dance.

In 1957, China established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Assocation, “the only organisational body of Catholics in China officially recognised by the government of the People’s Republic of China, but [that] is not recognised by the Vatican. Experts consider it wrong to identify this institution of political control with the part of the Church in China that accepts or tolerates its control, some of whose bishops the Holy See recognizes as in full communion with it.

That quote is from Wiki. Here is something from the Cardinal Kung Foundation:

Bishop Andrew Tsien, Bishop of Hualian, Taiwan, explained that the objectives of the Patriotic Association are:

Short term: To substitute it for the true Roman Catholic church.

Long term: To eliminate religion in order to achieve a pure materialistic and autocratic society.

Catholics and other Christians, as well as Buddhists, Muslims, and other religious Chinese, have been and continue to be punished in far more extreme ways than just suffering hits to the wallet.

In his remark on the pastoral letter on women issued by the Patriotic Association’s Bishops Conference, Rev. Matthias Lu, Ph.D., S.TH.L., Director of the St. Thomas Aquinas Center in California, wrote:

“Its (the Patriotic Association’s) commitment is to manipulate the mass of the Catholic population in order to integrate them into the Socialist revolutionary movement by submitting them to the leadership of the Communist Party in all things.”

To accomplish this goal over the past 45 years, the Chinese government put tens of thousands of Roman Catholic faithful in jail for 10, 20, 30 or more years. Thousands perished in jail. Many were shot in public. All foreign missionaries were banished. As you are painfully aware, this persecution continues even today.

We are certainly not there in the United States, and it would be hysterical in the literal sense to assert we are, or anywhere close. But you don’t have to throw people in jail to destroy them, or at least marginalize them politically and socially. You can shutter their businesses and wrestle those mediating institutions that stand between the individual citizen and the Leviathan state—like churches—into desuetude.

Who would be the equivalent of the CPCA in the United States, given a pass by State functionaries and allowed to function, tax-exempt status intact? TEC? ELCA? The Moravians and the Quakers? UCC and American Baptists? The United Methodists may find themselves split between “good” and “bad,” with Hillary as a member of the former and George W. Bush a member of the latter.

Would the State have to make historically black churches exempt from persecution, for fear of a backlash from its base? (Not to mention the extraordinary good they do in their communities—but that may be seen as neither here nor there when it comes to political purity.) Would more traditional clergy be pushed out of those churches or be persuaded to focus on social-justice issues only?

This will all work out for the Church’s good in the long term, of course. The only reason History is allowed to run any course is for the sake of the Elect. That does not mean there will not be a lot of pain along the way. Purging and pruning guarantee it. But about how the story ends, there is no doubt.

Let’s just say we are definitely living in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes.

The Biggest Christian Movie Star on the Planet

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“Yeah, I talk about Jesus in interviews. You got a problem with that?”

Is Chris Pratt.

Or should I have said, simply, “The Biggest Movie Star on the Planet” — full stop, at least for this weekend? Or maybe “The Biggest Movie Star on the Planet Is a Christian”?

Jurassic World had the second biggest U.S. opening in history and is the first film ever to pass $500 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

By all accounts Pratt is a good guy, obviously talented (he will always be Andy Dwyer to me), and at 36 has a lifetime of eye-popping (I only saw Guardians of the Galaxy because he was in it), surprising (think Zero Dark Thirty), and, let’s hope, inspiring work ahead of him.

Here’s how the Parks and Rec writers explained Pratt’s giant weight loss at one point in the series’s run — the result of training for an off-season movie role, I’m guessing Guardians of the Galaxy, as this episode was probably shot summer 2013, and Guardians was released in 2014. Plus, Pratt had to put on 60 pounds immediately after filming Zero Dark Thirty, which was released in 2012, for yet another movie. And yes, there will be a quiz.

P.S. My headline could also, easily, apply to this guy.

The Novel Is Protestant. What Does that Make the Haiku?

 

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I consider myself pretty well-read. You probably consider yourself pretty well-read. Well, compared to Joseph Bottum, author of such bestselling Amazon singles as Dakota Christmas and Wise Guy (not to mention An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America), we’re downright remedial.

Think I’m exaggerating? (As if I ever exaggerate…) Check out, for starters, “God and the Detectives” or “The Mad Scientists’ Club” or “God and Bertie Wooster.” I’ve also seen but a small portion of Jody’s personal library, an act of ocular masochism, bibliophile that I am, that alone was cause for new prescription lenses.

And now we have “The Novel as Protestant Art,” a tour de force biography of the novel that itself is a work of fine art. Jody’s thesis, if I’m reading him correctly, is that what we recognize as the novel — though enjoying antecedents in the works of Boccaccio and Rabelais and, certainly, Cervantes — came into its own as a distinct art form owing to Protestant authors writing in predominantly Protestant cultures and, more important, with distinctly Protestant preoccupations, even if the books themselves were not “dogmatic” or works of proselytism.

Jody begins by accepting the challenge of defining the novel, no easy task. He ushers onto the stage the usual suspects, titles almost always denominated as having giving the genre birth, whether Don Quixote or Gargantua and Pantagruel or even the much-imitated Robinson Crusoe. But Jody digs deeper, into the souls of the heroes and heroines of later works, which is where we will find what we are looking for:

The individual soul’s journey increasingly defines the social line of the English novel from Fielding through the 18th-century picaresques of Smollett and on to Thackeray and Dickens—together with writers as diverse as Mrs. Gaskell, Mark Twain, and James Joyce; novels as different as Moby-Dick, Crime and Punishment, and Herzog—so even more does it define the personal line that runs from Richardson through Jane Austen and Henry James and down to Alice Walker and innumerable others.

I confess there’s something in this kind of novel I find tedious. Austen and James, many others in the Richardson line, are beyond carping; to prefer Dickens to them is as individually revealing and critically pointless as preferring the planet Mercury to the planet Mars. Still, I do prefer Wuthering Heights to Jane EyreWar and Peace to Madame Bovary, Death Comes for the Archbishop to The Awakening (and Rabelais to them all). Reading even much of Virginia Woolf, I find myself tiring of the relentless search inside the psyche, the endless dwelling on internal reality, as though feelings and thoughts about the self were as important and interesting as actions and thoughts about the external universe.

Except that feelings and thoughts about the self actually are important. They were important even in the premodern Aristotelian and Stoic rational accounts of the good life, although they were understood mostly as tools: instruments to be left behind once virtue had been achieved. And feelings and internal consciousness become more than important—they become vital—in the modern turn to the self.

This is what the novel as an art form emerged to address, and what the novel as an art form encouraged into ever-greater growth. The inner life, self-consciousness as self-understanding, becomes the manifestation of virtue and the path for grasping salvation. It’s there in 1813 when Jane Austen has Elizabeth Bennett declare, “Till this moment I never knew myself,” at the great turning point of Pride and Prejudice, and it’s there in 1908 when E. M. Forster has Lucy Honeychurch exclaim that she has at last seen for herself “the whole of everything at once,” at the great turning point of A Room with a View—Forster’s most Austen-like book, intended (as he described it in his diary) to be “clear, bright, and well constructed.”

Plenty of novels, and perhaps the majority of stories told outside the novel tradition, lack thick characters with revealed interior lives. In much of the genre fiction of our time—science fiction, mysteries, and thrillers; romances, westerns, and Napoleonic War sea-stories, for that matter—the thinness of the characters can be a benefit, keeping clear the fact that those characters are acting in a kind of chanson de geste: They instantiate recognizable types, and they perform iconic actions. In the roman tradition (which is to say, in the central stream of the modern novel), the characters are generally required to be fuller: to have unique and individual interior lives. They are required to be realistic, the novelists say, although the range of novelistic interior lives contains its own share of well-defined types.

More to the point, such books seek to explain (and by explaining, validate and make ever more central) the kind of distinct and self-conscious self whose invention in modernity is suggested by its absence in previous literature. This is why we hesitate, backing and filling a little, before naming as novels such ironic 18th-century chanson fiction as Voltaire’s Candide and Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, but do not hesitate at all to give the name to Sarah Fielding’s relatively minor book of roman fiction, The Countess of Dellwyn—although all three were published in the same year, 1759, 40 years after Robinson Crusoe and 150 years after Don Quixote.

The self-investigation of the self, the attempt to discern the truth amidst the clash of feelings with perceptions of social and physical reality, emerges as the proper spiritual journey of individuals and the true rightwising of their souls: Pilgrim’s Progress, rewritten in self-consciousness. This is the purest stream of the modern novel, however much we like Dickens—however much we understand the outward peregrinations of Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, and Pip Pirrip as reflecting an inward journey toward mature self-understanding. And this stream has its wellspring in Clarissa Harlowe.

What follows, on Clarissa as the defining example of the novel-as-Protestant thesis, is worth the price of admission alone.

… The “divine Clarissa” has serious internal business to do: the willing of herself into self-integrity, a matching of her self-understanding and self-possession to the virtuous pattern of the salvation to which she has been elected. For most of the novel, she either does not understand or does not care that her breathtaking loveliness is itself a force in the world, sexually active in ways she does not wish to be. In the long time of her dying, however—as the conversion of the rake John Belford into her defender proves—Clarissa’s pale beauty is clarified beyond sexual attractiveness into a pure expression of her sanctification. No wonder Lovelace, shot in a duel with another of Clarissa’s defenders, dies with the prayer “let this expiate” on his lips.

I don’t know what more a reader could want for a Protestant art form. And there Clarissa sits, a million words near the beginning of the literature: the defining wellspring, the inescapable origin, of one of the few streams down which the entire modern project of the novel will run.

Read it all. It’s probably worth as much as, if not more than, a three-credit course in the English novel in even the best of universities.

If Famous Preachers Left Yelp Reviews of Lakewood Church

 

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Luther, M.
Wittenberg
95 Friends

“This miserable jackanapes who makes a pretense of preaching would have the Christian avoid tribulations, which are twofold: from divine wrath and from divine goodness. But this miniature Demas, in love with this present world, judges both only according to outward appearances, and makes himself a theologian of glory. In the face of tribulation, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 4:1: ‘Thou has enlarged me when I was in distress.’ But this addlepate is no Christian but a Turk and an enemy of Christ who would deny the Christian this cross; for here the Apostle speaks: ‘We glory in tribulations.’

“O-stink glories only in vanity and is blind to the God who accepts no one as righteous whom He has not first tried. But He tries us through the fire of affliction, as we read in Psalm 11:5: ‘The Lord trieth the righteous.’ God tries us in this way, in order that we may know whether we really love God for His own sake. This false ‘Lake-of-fire’ deceiver is one whose very teeth are an offense to the divine Wisdom.”

Calvin, J.
Geneva
0 Friends

“The greeters were very cloying and I found my seat did not afford a good view. The music was mostly Christian rock and not of the very best kind. The law of God was never preached and therefore the balm of the gospel never offered. In addition, coffee hour was a catastrophic admixture of idolatry, false fellowship, and cronuts, themselves unclean adulterations. One youth asked if I was ‘into bedazzling,’ as if I were a wizard of some former age. I immediately fled, seeking refuge with the king whose realm is composed of burgers.”

Wesley, J.
London, England
25,500 Friends

“Christians are not perfect in knowledge, and this preacher offer proof of this. Innumerable are the things which he knows not. Touching the Almighty himself, this Osteen knows neither the thunder of the Lord’s power nor the times and seasons [Acts 1:7] when God will work his great works upon the earth, when ‘the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, greater even than that of the praise band, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ preferably sooner than later. And while no one, then, is so perfect in this life as to be free from ignorance, the Preacher of Lakewood abuses the privilege. Nay, with regard to the Holy Scriptures themselves, as careful as they are to avoid it, the best of men are liable to mistake. Today within my hearing was preaching of such mistake as to make the most grotesque of Judaizers seem the very apostle to the Gentiles. Would an Alexander the Coppersmith appear and do this ministry much harm. Like now.”

Spurgeon, CH
London, England
10M Friends

“Though salvation is not by works of the law, yet the blessings which are promised to obedience are denied by this faithless servant. This Ostler picks and chooses with respect to all that God has commanded. If His chosen ones walk uprightly before Him, He will bless. Yet the ways of worldly conformity and unholiness cannot bring good to us. If integrity does not make us prosper, discounted e-books on Amazon will not.

“No man may refuse to go to holy war. We must fight if we would reign, and we must carry on the warfare till we overcome every enemy, yea this very false prophet, who has come into the world wielding via satellite all the evils that accompany false teaching. Read the whole of the Spirit’s word to the church at Ephesus. Or Bunyan, you pickled herrings.

“The unction of Satan drips from the very bannisters of the Lakewood synagogue.”

Finney, C.
Oberlin, Ohio
I am my own friend

“This latter-day Joel rightly promises future blessings owing to prevailing prayer.

“The fellowship at Lakewood understands that Our Savior excites strong desires for blessings, which you are bound to pray for in faith. You are bound to infer, from the fact that you find yourself drawn to desire such a thing while in the exercise of such holy affections as the Spirit of Joel produces, that these desires are the work of the Spirit also: happiness, stuff, three-day weekends, marmite paninis.

“Here, then, if you find yourself strongly drawn to desire a blessing, you are to understand it as an intimation that God is willing to bestow that particular blessing, and so you are bound to believe it or you’re a dope. God does not trifle with His children but is not keen on the Midianites. He does not go and excite in a son or daughter a desire for one blessing, say, a Lexus, to turn them off with something else, nay, a Tesla. But He excites the very desires He is willing to gratify such that the itch and the scratch become one. And when believers feel such desires, they are bound to follow them out till they get the blessing, or else.

“To prove that faith is indispensable to prevailing prayer, it is only necessary to repeat what the apostle James expressly tells us: “If any of you lack Armani, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, with a nice knit tie. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth, will receive Donald J. Trump grey plaid” (James 1:5, 6).

“Midway through the worship service, we were asked to believe that we shall receive—something—what? Not something, or anything, as it happens; but some particular thing. We were to think that God is not such a Being that if we ask a fish He will give us a serpent; or if we ask a four-bedroom, three bath colonial in Brentwood, He will give us a trailer in Oxnard. But He says: ‘What things so ever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them, so pay the quarterly tax now.’

“We met a man during the fellowship who supposed that God had especially promised a thing but prayed, ‘Lord, if it be Thy will…’ We immediately upbraided him and said, ‘This is to insult God. To put an if into God’s promise, where God has put none, is tantamount to charging God with being an Old School Calvinist.’

“I am most pleased to recommend the Lakewood Church. The spirit of prayer has come down upon this Church, and a most powerful revival will certainly follow. Of what, I have no idea.”

Graham, W.
Earth
Everyone is a friend

“The pawn shop of Satan in which we are redeemed by the sentimentality of a bloodless Saviour. Go to my grandson’s church.”

Chrysostom, J.
Constantinople
Friends are a luxury I cannot afford

“Paul took whatever was profitable of the chastening that proceeds from the Devil, and left the rest alone. This false church takes whatever is profitable for inflating egos and grants the proceeds to the Devil. The Apostle often used the Devil as an executioner. This Empty Orifice executes false doctrine and sends those conviced they have done no wrong to the Devil.

“Not once did I hear that we were to know ourselves, know our wounds, thus to seek the right medicines. Instead we were fed anodynes. For he who does not know his disease, will give no care to his weakness. There were many young in attendance here. But these young should not be confident in their youth, nor think that they have a very fixed term of life, ‘For the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.’ On this account he has made our end invisible, in order that we might make our diligence plain. No such warning was ever preached, as if the young would live for eternity in their own power. Still hear what Paul says ‘when they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.’ Affairs are full of much change. We are not masters of our end. We are not to put faith in dreams and worldly comfort. Let us be masters not of earthly desires but of virtue. Our Master Christ is loving. This ministry is not.”

Keller, T.
Manhattan
8M Friends

“The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope. … I don’t actually have time to sit through a whole Lakewood service. I don’t have time to sit through one of my own services. So I got nuthin.”

Apostle Paul                               
Tarsus
11 Friends

“WTF?”